People were very excited when the state legislature finally passed a government ethics bill. After all, the Republicans had been blocking such a bill, and it’s nice to see the Democratic majority delivering an actual change — even though good government groups were lukewarm at best about the result (with a League of Women Voters spokesperson calling it, curiously, “not the best thing since sliced bread” but “a very good loaf of bran”).
But Governor Paterson doesn’t like it, and has vetoed the bill.
There was a strong indication that he’d do so even before it passed, when the Governor’s spokesman called it “election year window dressing.” Today Paterson says the bill “does not go far enough in addressing the corrosive effects of outside influence and internal decay that have caused the people of New York to lose faith and trust in their government.”
Among the features Paterson wanted and felt he wasn’t getting: an independent oversight body, and universal rather than selective disclosure of lawmakers’ outside business clients. (Tom Robbins previously found Paterson less than consistent in his attitude toward the bill.)
Rather than accept the bill as “the most we can accomplish at this time,” Paterson says, he’s holding out for a bill that “establishes independent oversight of public officials; ends pay-to-play; reduces the influence of money on politics; and brings transparency and accountability to ethics oversight.”
Albany Democrats would like to override the veto, but that would require GOP cooperation, and state senate minority leader Dean Skelos has already indicated he’s not looking to help. In response, Democrats brought up former Republican majority leader and convicted influence peddler Joe Bruno.
Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver did get assembly minority leader Brian Kolb, though, to join him in a statement in which both say they’re “greatly disappointed” by the veto, and call the bill Paterson rejected a “crucial first step in restoring the people’s faith in their government.”
Update: Susan Lerner, New York Executive Director of Common Cause, says “Governor Paterson did the right thing” and calls for “open negotiations” among the Governor, legislators, and good-gov leaders to get a better bill.